Regardless of the specific sport, injury is a threat whenever engaging in physical activity.
However, information about the injury landscape has started to change and many professional leagues are beginning to take progressive measures in order to protect their players from unnecessary harm.
Wayne Scanlin of the Ottawa Citizen is the latest columnist to touch on the subject, as he wrote on Thursday night that the NHL is failing to protect its star players. Citing the amount of marquee names who have been sidelined this season, Scanlin believes that the injuries have occurred because the league is failing to educate its players:
Some of these injuries were fluky, many were preventable. Acceptance of these injuries as just a matter of business as usual is appalling.
Where is the game plan to educate players and reduce injuries, especially head injuries? While the NFL has taken dramatic steps to protect its star players -- especially the quarterbacks fans pay to be see, the NHL spends more time playing with its crayons, doodling divisional alignment scenarios.
Scanlin isn't the only one with this opinion as he cites comments from New York Rangers star forward Brad Richards. Richards also discussed the NFL's decision to stiffen on-field penalties and expressed that the NHL needs to follow suit:
"I think it has to be a conscious effort," Rangers winger Brad Richards said in an interview. "You see football, they try to keep the people who make the plays in the game."
"That's not a hockey play," Richards says. "There's no need for it. They're just going up for the puck. They're both jumping. It was obvious intent to hit him in the back of the head."
Larry Brooks of the New York Post is another writer who has expressed his dissatisfaction with the NHL's involvement in protecting its players. Brooks wrote of three incidents when players were driven into the boards, which he believed should have been ruled as illegal hits:
It's impossible to know how many more of these checks have been thrown, but three within a week connotes a trend. If this becomes commonplace, if this permeates the game with the blessing of the NHL, then the Department of Player Safety will become an oxymoron.
So it begs the question, can the NHL do more to protect its players?
The league has attempted to increase awareness through the production of the "suspension videos" from the NHL Department of Player Safety, which detail the rationale for supplemental discipline. By explaining a suspension, the league educates fans and players as to why a play is deemed illegal.
Suspension is the NHL's strongest tool in curbing the frequency of illegal plays. Richards believes the length of suspensions needs to be increased, which is a logical argument when discussing protection of players.
Ultimately, consistency appears to be a key component.
A combination of informed supplemental discipline and consistent enforcement from on-ice officials seems like the most effective way to prevent unnecessary injury. Of course, if these bodies of power begin enforcing discipline too frequently, people will have a problem with that, too.
What do you think? Can the NHL do more to protect its players? Do you have any ideas how the NHL can be more involved in doing so?